THE WATERFRUIT TREE (TANGLEBOUGH, BÉJON'MÁR)

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The waterfruit tree, sometimes also known in the area of the Oka'Seri of the Ráhaz-Dáth as the Tanglebough because of the dense structure, is a tropical tree of medium height, native to Nybelmar and various tropical regions of Caelereth. It flourishes in wet places in the shadow of higher trees, and has there established a mutually beneficial relationship with various shimmerwing species. In Styrásh the tree is also referred to as "Béjon'már", lit. "Waterblossom".

Appearance. Waterfruit trees are densely growing trees, more often than not growing multiple trunks out of one communal base. The bark is rough, and of a dark charcoal-like colour. However, quite often the bark is covered by many patches of moss and algae, giving it a much more 'foresty' look with blotches and stripes in various greens and browns. The leaves are of a herne hue, giving the overall impression of a rather dark tree. Waterfruit Trees are moderately small trees, which grow to a maximum of eight to ten peds typically at fresh water banks, and seven to eight when growing in or near salt water.

The tree's structure is rather dense, as it grows many branches and twigs, which in turn tend to twist and turn, making it hard for anything larger than a cat to enter. This, combined with the large amount of broad, egg-shaped leaves makes it a favoured tree for many smaller animals to hide and raise their young. The leaves are approximately seven to eight nailsbreaths long, and only slightly less wide.

The roots are usually a tangled mess of boughs, more often than not even elevating the entire tree slightly, so that one may look underneath the tree. This provides many excellent nesting places for small animals and birds, and it is not at all uncommon to see many birds carrying food into these burrows and crevices during the reproduction season.
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Territory. The Waterfruit Tree, as mentioned above, has a rather large territory, including the tropical regions of
Caelereth, as well as more temperate climates. This tree occupies all of the Nybelmar area, the south of Sarvonia, Denilou, and certain parts of Aeruillin. In these places it occupies all kinds of wet spots, such as lakesides, marches, riverbanks, and of course, the seaside, as long as there are shimmerwings to be found in the area to provide pollination, and some form of cover against the sun. Although Waterfruit Trees appear to prefer fresh water conditions over salty ones, it seems to be able to flourish under saline conditions rather well, although it will grow slower, and more often than not, not reach its full height.

In the Drifting Woods, Waterfruit Trees are usually found in those areas just off the channel banks, where the sun penetrates the vaporous atmosphere, while the other trees, mostly Tangleroot and Starmark Trees, will prevent direct sunlight from reaching the trees, which would eventually cause the flowers to wither and die. It may also be found in a Nybelmarian giant marsh-oak, which often sports other small trees in crevices between its trunk and branches.

On the Sarvonian continent it is only found in the very south, mainly the Oka‘Seri Swamps
of the Ráhaz-Dáth and in the Scattersands Shoals. Although various other locations are known, these rarely consist out of more than a dozen trees, often cultivated by the local population.

On Aeruillin, Waterfruit Trees are usually a bit smaller than in other places, as the trees providing cover are not always as effective as on other continents. This is due to the proximity of the sun, for in these southern lands, even a few minutes of direct sunlight can kill the flowers.
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Usages. As is to be expected, Waterfruit Trees provide water. More precisely, the flowers, (not the fruit, as its name falsely implies) contain fresh water, purified by the plant, which can be easily accessed by cutting a small slit in the gel-like outer layer, and squeezing softly. For this reason, the lower flowers on a tree are often emptied, and as such rarely develop into the actual fruit. Also, the inhabitants of the Phéd'lón, (also known as the Drifting Woods) on Nybelmar cultivate stands of these trees near each settlement, either in the surrounding forest, or in the center of the inhabited island. There they serve as a sure supply of drinkable water in an environment where water not tainted by the salt of the sea is hard to come by.

Animals of all sorts rely on the Waterfruit Tree for a large portion of their water supply. Although many of them have adapted to their environment to allow them to go without drinking for an extended period, creatures rely on it for water, such as the capou-capou, moss bears, swinging monkeys, various insects, and occasionally even the elusive and dangerous lingra, who will chew on the fruit to open it, swallow the water, but discard the shell as it will eat only flesh. The monkeys are known to use small ‘tools’ to open the way to their drink, such as pointy twigs, or sharp shell fragments.

The wood of these trees is soft and easily shaped by a skilled woodworker, yet durable, even when used outdoors. Its nervature is dark, which contrasts beautifully with the light wood, making objects carved from Waterfruit wood a desired product.
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Reproduction. The most curious aspect of this tree is without any doubt its way of reproduction. Depending very much on shimmerwings for pollination, it has established a close relation with these insects from which both seem to draw profit. The water-filled flowers of the tree are mostly empty, but for an onion-shaped bulb on the place where the soft exterior sprouts from the stem. This bulb is hollow, and contains a short, stub-like pistil on the upper side, at the base. At its tip is a small opening, less than half of a nailsbreath wide. The stamen, then, are barely recognizable. Shaped like thin ridges, they are nothing more than a pollen-producing line on the outer sphere's insides, tinted slightly more greenish when the pollen are ready to be released.

Fertilization is done by allowing the pollen to detach from the stamen, drift through the water, and enter the bulb protecting the pistil. However, to release the pollen into the contents of the flower, a fairly strong motion is needed, such as an animal bumping into it while passing through the tree, or the shaking by a strong wind. This is where the shimmerwings come to play their part in the reproduction process.

As the insects lay their eggs inside the flower, the larvae hatch in a safe chamber, filled with sweet water, and all the food they will need, for to the larvae, the pollen are edible. As the tiny beasts move along the stamen ridges, they do not only eat the pollen, they also scrape a fairly large portion off the stamen, and into the open flower. In this way, the larvae greatly increase the amount of free-floating pollen compared to that of a flower without larvae, even though a portion of the pollen produced will be eaten. Although the Waterfruits are available year-round, they seldom get pollinated during the times shimmerwing larvae are not present.

After pollination, the flower will slowly start to shrink as water is drawn back into the plant, until finally all that remains is a hard nut, encased together with the pupae of the shimmerwings in a tough, crispy film. This nut, which is easily broken by a strong hand, is filled with a rust-coloured mushy paste of a very bitter taste, and several dozens of small bead-like seeds that look like made from the finest n'orsidian glass.
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Myth/Lore. The city of Tyr Goukaine on Denilou is famous for the so-called "Watchfull", a series of six exquisitely carved three-ped-tall human statues, positioned on the main watchtowers of the outer wall. It is said these have been carved from the trees that were removed as the city was built, and that while the other trees were used as construction wood, a wandering elf, known now only as "The Carver" convinced the Lord of Tyr Goukaine to give him the Béjon’már wood. The elf then set to work in an enclosed area, and when after many days there were no more sounds of woodcarving to be heard from within the enclosure, the curious workers entered, and found that the elf had disappeared, and only the Watchfull remained.

Another interesting fact is that this tree is mentioned in a few ancient scrolls and texts, albeit vaguely, and with an obscure elvish name that roughly translates to "Large object, alive (tree?)-spheres-Life/Water-carry", or "Tree that Bears Water-Spheres (Life-Spheres?)". This leads to the conclusion that the Waterfruit Tree was already widely spread before the War of the Chosen, which would explain for its scattered territory.
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 Date of last edit 18th Rising Sun 1666 a.S.

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